The Korea Herald


Everland's beloved Fu Bao returns to China

By Song Seung-hyun

Published : April 3, 2024 - 14:36

    • Link copied

Giant panda Fu Bao at Everland on Mar. 3. (Everland) Giant panda Fu Bao at Everland on Mar. 3. (Everland)

Fu Bao, a giant panda that enjoyed rock star status in South Korea, returned to China on Wednesday, according to officials at the Everland zoo.

The female panda, born in 2020 to a panda pair China loaned to Korea in 2016, was the first cub born in Korea through natural breeding.

According to officials at Everland, located in Yongin Gyeonggi Province, the giant panda departed Panda World, its home for the past 1,354 days in Everland as well as in Korea, after a special 20-minute farewell event held on Wednesday morning.

During the event, a special vehicle carrying Fu Bao paraded slowly through the park before departing, and two veteran zookeepers, Kang Cheol-won and Song Young-kwan, known as Fu Bao's "grandpas," each read a thank-you letter: one to Fu Bao and the other to Fu Bao's fans during the farewell event.

In the afternoon, Fu Bao departed Korea via Incheon International Airport on a chartered flight provided by China. The specific flight schedule was not disclosed at China's request, according to Everland.

Kang and a panda expert from China accompanied Fu Bao on the flight.

Fu Bao will be relocated to the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Sichuan Province, according to an agreement of two countries’ authorities.

Under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, pandas or their offspring loaned by China to other countries remain property of China. Their offspring have to be returned before they turn four years old.

For the past month, Fu Bao had been residing in a dedicated enclosure within Everland's Panda World, undergoing preparations for her international transfer in compliance with international regulations on wild animals. March 3 marked the last day that the public could view Fu Bao.

Fu Bao is the first offspring of Ai Bao and Le Bao, the giant panda pair sent by Chinese President Xi Jinping in March 2016 on a 15-year loan as a symbol of Korea's and China's friendship. Their twin cubs, Hui Bao and Lui Bao, born in 2023, are still here along with their parents.